Friday, December 22, 2006

Goode and Islamophobia

Turns out I'm represented by a bigot! My congressman, Virgil Goode (R-VA) has shown himself to be a despicable hatred-monger. The figure is a copy of his letter to constituents, written on his official letter head where he starts off by saying that he will always swear on the Bible and not the Koran (duh!) and that somehow people swearing by the Quran (my preferred spelling!) indicates something despicable.

Goode is hardly alone in his vitriol. The story was made national headlines by talk-show host, Dennis Prager who had this to say:
America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress.

Someone forgot to explain to zealots like Prager that that is a violation of the idea of America! Indeed, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life points out that Ellison is not even the first candidate to not swear on the Bible; his predecessors include one famous gentleman by the name of John Quincy Adams, who swore on a law volume instead. And yet Christian groups like the American Family Association are joining in the chorus, asking their members to pressure their legislatures to pass laws requiring a swearing with the Bible, and disallowing other religious texts. To these enlightened souls, I, an immigrant to this land, give you the First Amendment, the cornerstone of American democracy:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

As you can tell, I'm disgusted by this hatred. When George Allen made his famous 'maccaca' remark, I gave him the benefit of doubt, suggesting he had not intended it as a slur. But now a much more insidious bedrock emerges ...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Speaking of Faith with Leila Ahmed

I recently heard a fantastic interview with Dr Leila Ahmed of the Harvard Divinity School on Islam and common Western misconceptions about Muslim women. This is really one of those insightful interviews everyone must listen to. Here's just one point to ponder - if Islamic women are really that repressed, then why is it that there have been 7 Muslim women heads of state, but only 2 or 3 in Europe, and none in the US?

Click play on the player to listen to the interview, or here for the Speaking of Faith page on American public radio.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Schieffer on Bayh

I love Bob Schieffer and his program, 'Face the Nation', and I loved his commentary on Sen. Evan Bayh's decision not to run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2008:

Evan Bayh is a well-regarded, two-term Senator from Indiana but he is not exactly a household name. So when he announced two weeks ago that he was thinking about running for the Democratic presidential nomination, even he knew it was a long shot. He acknowledged it was a David-versus-Goliath kind of thing, but he remembered that David did pretty well. True enough, but yesterday Bayh realized why the smart money is usually on the giants — because they are giants — and he quit the race as quickly as he had entered.

"Whether there were too many Goliaths or whether I'm just not the right David, I concluded the odds were longer than I felt I could possibly pursue," he said. In other words, he took a look, realized he had no chance and decided not to waste his time or the country's.

How refreshing! None of this "I decided I wanted to spend more time with my family," or the catalogue of excuses we've come to expect from usual wanna-bes — or even worse, one of those ego trip campaigns that all involved know is headed nowhere except to get some TV time for the candidate. Bayh just concluded it wasn't to be and said so.

The one downside is, that is just the kind of straight talk we need more of in politics. A man so candid about himself and his chances might have had some interesting thoughts on other subjects. In a way, I'm sorry we won't get to hear them.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


A recent UNICEF report finds that abortion rates for female fetuses have been rising in India despite the improved economic conditions, and actually increasing faster in richer states and among richer communities with access to medical technology that allows the determination of the sex of the baby. While India loves to flout their recent successes, this is a shocking failure of all spheres of life - the government, social groups and the populace at large. Needless to say, the federal government expressed "alarm" ... and yet they fail to do a damn thing. Want to stop this nonsense - become serious about prosecution. Declare a sex-based abortion as murder of highest priority, launch a special police force to target doctors who support the practice, and other enforcement actions. But also do more to improve the lot of women. Establish a variety of sops that make it financially beneficial to have girls, starting with (and this is hard for a conservative to say) subsidies for farmers for every girl child they have, and other aggressive actions.

Ok, that wasn't particularly specific, but my point is that a nation that can build a nuclear bomb, and grow its economy at 8% a year can come up with solutions for the female infanticide problem, if it was placed as a national priority!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Quote of the Day

Jagdish Bhagwati, professor at Columbia University and author of the book 'In Defense of Globalization', on the fear of the deficits with China, and calls for tariffs on Chinese goods:

The Chinese surplus is cited as the cause of the U.S. deficit. This is a non sequitur. If they were to revalue, and our excess spending through the budget deficit were to continue, our deficit would continue but be directed to other nations than China. China, and also India, are such large countries and rapidly growing economies that they inculcate unjustified fear.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Smoking Isotope

Question: what do recently murdered ex-KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko and your favorite serving of Marlboro Lights have in common?

Answer: Poloniom 210.

Turns out that cigarettes contain the deadly radioactive isotope in sufficient quantities that pack and a half smokers get as much radiation as 300 chest X-rays a year! With an estimated 100 million dead from smoking already, now may be the time to put that cigarette away!

Steven the Vegan

I saw this Youtube video on a friend's blog and had to post it on here because it's gold, baby, gold! I'm not vegan, but I am vegetarian, and Steven really touched a nerve ... and made my laugh my ass off!